Almond Cake with Plums

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“Take a risk or play it safe?” That was the question I asked myself the day before Besha Rodell and Rachel Shukert came over for dinner last week. Rachel I wasn’t nervous about. Even though I’d never met her before, I knew we’d click because we’re both musical theater geeks. The food would be secondary. I also knew I’d click with Besha, who I had met before (at Proof Bakery last year) but that’s not what made me nervous. What made me nervous is that Besha is a food critic. A food critic! Can you imagine cooking for a food critic? I was kind of freaking out.

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Chocolate Chile Pound Cakes

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Tweaking a Daniel Boulud recipe is a little bit like rewriting the lyrics to a Bob Dylan song. It’s a brazen thing to do.

But when I made that Smoky Beef Chili for Diana’s birthday (and, by the way, not enough of you liked that recipe on Facebook and Twitter; I think it’s because chili is hard to make beautiful…a fact confirmed to me by a food stylist I met the other day) I had leftover homemade chili powder. So the dessert recipe I meant to make–Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate-Ginger Pound Cake–instantly became Daniel Boulud’s Chocolate Chile Pound Cake. Don’t tell Daniel Boulud.

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Double-The-Cream-Cheese Cheesecake

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A few weeks ago, I posted this picture of a cheesecake that I ate at Craig’s aunt and uncle’s for Easter brunch and several readers wrote me and asked for the recipe. I wrote Craig’s aunt Liz who put me in touch with Andrea, who made the cake. The secret? “This recipe has twice as much cream cheese as the original recipe called for.” I love that about this recipe because if you’re going to eat something decadent like cheesecake, you may as well make the most decadent cheesecake you can possibly make. This is that cheesecake. Thanks, Andrea, for the recipe.

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Ligurian Lemon Cake with Raspberries

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When I went to Paris in 2005, the warm croissants certainly set my heart aflutter, as did the cracklingly fresh baguettes and the dainty, delicate macarons. But the moment my heart almost stopped beating from the shock of deliciousness was the moment I tasted my first Pierre Hermé dessert, a dessert called H. Mogador that contained, “Biscuit au citron, gelee de fruit de la passion, ganache chocolat au lait et fruit de la passion.” It was basically a chocolate popsicle filled with passionfruit, one of my favorite flavors; I didn’t eat it, I inhaled it (watch me on video here). That dessert was the first thing I thought of when years later–this year, in fact–I found Pierre Hermé’s dessert cookbook (which he wrote along with Dorie Greenspan) at the used book store on my street. I immediately snatched it up.

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Date and Coffee Sponge Cake With A Coffee Glaze

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Speaking of British food people, did you know that Daniel Day-Lewis’s sister is a cookbook writer over there? Her name is Tamasin Day-Lewis and hey, look, she’s on Twitter. I picked up her book Supper For A Song when I visited Kitchen Arts & Letters in New York; I’ve really enjoyed flipping through it, so on the day I made that chicken tagine I decided to put her book to the test for dessert. You never know if a cookbook purchase has been worthwhile until you cook from it. Would this one measure up? Click ahead to find out.

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Blood Orange Olive Oil Cake

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The question often comes up: “Do you like baking more than savory cooking? Or the other way around?”

I always give a thoughtful, complicated answer but there’s a much easier way to address the question: look to your right, scroll down. See where it says Recipes By Category? Look at the numbers. 36 salads. 22 soups. And (drumroll) 153 desserts. Um, so yes, I really like baking and, more importantly, I really like dessert, both making it and eating it.

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Brittany Cake Aux Pruneaux

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The Neverending Story was one of my favorite childhood movies. I loved the back and forth between Sebastian eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the attic of his school and young Atreyu on his white horse (well, not for long…Artax!) journeying to kill The Nothing. Mostly, though, I loved the idea of this dusty old book, discovered in a hidden-away book shop, that teleports our young hero to another world. I felt the same way, the other day, making a dessert from a cookbook I bought at Bonnie Slotnick’s in the West Village.

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Blackberry Buttermilk Snacking Cake

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Here in L.A. it’s harder to get in touch with my old New York self, the self who used to make an afternoon snacking cake. If you say the words “afternoon snacking cake” here in L.A. you will be shot by the body police, buried in a mountain of silicone, and never heard from again.

So I made sure to close all the blinds when I set out to make this cake from the most recent Food & Wine; a cake perfect for nibbling in the late afternoon or for breakfast or with tea in the morning.

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